Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs
We have a feeling that everyone thought the same thing when they heard that Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock were collaborating on a record. The thought was something like, "Well, what in the world in that going to sound like?" We were thinking that right up until the second that Aesop popped into the middle of "Earthquake," the second song that was taped on this afternoon in San Francisco this past February, the day after they'd played their first ever live show. They were wondering the same thing before they played that show, they admitted the day of the session, but all went well the night beforehand, on a stage that was populated with all sorts of stacked boxes that were painted to depict different people by one of Dawson's friends. Aesop entered what sounded like one of Dawson's typically lovely and wistful songs, filled to the gills with deeply personal information and cutting and spot-on observations of the duality and craziness of the most common of life's moments. He began rapping, in that molasses-like droopiness that he has about him, about the absurdity of having to talk to someone or think about the death of someone who died surprisingly and seemingly without reason. It sounds as if it's the death of a young mother or a young father who leaves behind a child that they'll never be able to see grow up, but grow up they do, just with a little more confusion and pain than most little kids might. It's immediate that Dawson and Aesop Rock don't make for an unlikely pair, but an ideal one, a two-some that couldn't be more like-minded, even if their idiosyncrasies are slightly off from one another. The funny thing is that they aren't all that different.
In Aesop Rock, you have a man who moves slowly, always appears to be half-asleep, but then again seems to be thinking about a thousand brilliant thoughts at any given moment, giving them legs with his unlikely rhymes and phrases. With Dawson, you have the (literally and figuratively) the mother freak-folker of the modern era. The mommy, who proclaims herself still to be more DIY than anything, even with her mini-van (which, when she's loading it, some days, she feels like the act is a form of emoting), is a fountain of information, telling us more about herself in four or five minutes than is actually possible to learn about another person, even under scrutiny or a direct line of questioning. She gives us all of the juicy details that we never would have thought to ask and we think - or, we have a pretty good hunch - that Aesop Rock is actually doing the same thing in his songs, just making things a little more opaque and letting us do most of the heavy lifting as we're encouraged to decode, or not decode. It's whatever we would like to do. Combined, these two play up to their strengths and make songs that are special in their frankness and in the way that - even though we feel like we've heard these two at their most open - has never been more revealing or butt-ass-naked. Both "Earthquake" and "Delicate Cycle" are songs that further the very human ideas that it should be cool for everyone to be whomever they want to be and that not every day is going to be a great day. People can be mean and people can be happy. People can be sad as all fuck and they can take it out on others and what we should really do instead of retaliate is to listen to them. These songs bring out the sad hippie in Aesop and Dawson and it's not a bad thing, but more of an extension of what we've been hearing from them all along.